February 13, 2012

78 inmate deaths from 2010-11 not disclosed by Corrections

Strange, 78 deaths and only 32 DOC Documents (case files) supporting this story. 12 were for some type of sex offense, and 2 of them were suicides while 10 were for natural causes.

Inmate deaths around Oregon: Of 14 state prisons throughout the state, the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem had the largest number of inmate deaths during 2010-11. Here is the breakdown where the 79 deaths occurred:

31 Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem
23 Snake River Correctional Institution near Ontario
11 Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla
5 Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton
4 Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem
2 Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville: 2
1 Columbia River Correctional Institution in Portland
1 South Fork Forest Camp in the Coast Range: 1
1 Deer Ridge Correctional Institution near Madras
2-13-2012 Oregon:

Agency rep says death-notification procedures were sufficient

State corrections officials kept 78 inmate deaths secret from the public during the past two years.

As a result, the state Department of Corrections did not tell you about:
-A prisoner who died of a suspected drug overdose.

-A convict who died after he cut his wrist, swallowed a razor blade and repeatedly banged his head on a radiator.

-An inmate who died at Salem Hospital nearly one week after attempting to kill himself.

-A prisoner who died in a segregation cell after he injected an "undetermined drug or toxin."

-A 98-year-old sex offender who died of old age after a parole violation put him back behind bars in 2002.
The Statesman Journal gleaned information about these deaths from internal prison reports obtained through provisions of Oregon's public records law, court filings and other documents.

The DOC also did not disclose to the press or the public dozens of inmate deaths linked to natural causes such as cancer, liver failure and heart disease during the past two years.

A total of 79 inmates died in the custody of Oregon's 14,000-inmate prison system during 2010 and 2011, according to DOC figures.

The Corrections Department's website indicates the agency issued a news release for just one of the 79 deaths — that of Shelly Resnick, a 41-year-old inmate found dead May 31 in her single-person cell at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.

Jennifer Black, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department, confirmed that Resnick's death was the only prisoner death reported to the news media by the corrections agency during the two-year period.

"Yes, there was only one media release, for inmate deaths, issued in 2010 and 2011," Black wrote in an email to the Statesman Journal. "We posted the passing of Shelly Resnick because her crime and conviction was covered by the media, and we thought it would be of particular interest."

Black did not directly respond to several questions the Statesman Journal posed about the sweeping lack of notice for 78 other inmate deaths.

The questions:

-Why wasn't the news media notified about 78 of the 79 deaths?

-Does the DOC believe the public has a right to know when an inmate dies in state custody?

-What is the DOC's current policy relating to reporting such deaths to the news media and by extension the general public?

-Are any policy changes in the works?

In her email response, Black outlined the DOC's death-notification process in general terms and described the procedures as sufficient.

"When an inmate dies in DOC custody, the Department notifies the inmate's family members or other designated emergency contact, the Oregon State Police, and as necessary, the local District Attorney and the State Medical Examiner," she wrote.

Black noted that the DOC provides state legislative leaders with quarterly reports on inmate deaths. Such reports list the age of the deceased, cause of death and disposition of remains.

The agency also submits inmate-death data periodically to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

"The Department does not routinely issue a press release to notify the media when an inmate dies of natural causes," Black wrote. "The Department believes that its reporting of inmate deaths due to natural causes to the above-listed government entities and officials is appropriate."

Historically, Black said, the department has issued press releases "to notify the media of the deaths of certain high-profile or notorious inmates ..."

She added: "The Department intends to continue this historical practice."

Of 14 state prisons throughout the state, the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem had the largest number of inmate deaths during 2010-11, with 31, followed by 23 at the Snake River Correctional Institution near Ontario; 11 at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla; five at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton; four at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem and two at Coffee Creek.

Three prisons each had a single death during the same time period: Columbia River Correctional Institution in Portland, South Fork Forest Camp in the Coast Range and Deer Ridge Correctional Institution near Madras.

Newly released records include prison staffers' eyewitness accounts of nearly three-dozen inmate deaths that occurred at the Oregon State Penitentiary and the Oregon State Correctional Institution.

All but a handful were attributed to "apparent natural causes," according to forms filled out by prison employees.

Many inmates who succumbed to chronic illnesses died in the penitentiary's hospice or at Salem Hospital.

In a handful of cases, inmates died in peculiar fashion.

For instance:

-Thomas Campau died June 19, 2011, after cutting his left wrist and telling prison staffers that he had swallowed a razor blade while housed in the penitentiary infirmary.

He was 56.

Staff reports indicate that Campau's self-destructive outburst in the infirmary prompted a prison captain to determine that the 300-pound inmate should be taken to Salem Hospital for treatment. However, the captain was overruled by a prison doctor and a health services manager. They determined that Campau should stay at the prison infirmary and be kept on a suicide watch while housed in a "side room."

An officer who monitored Campau in the seclusion room wrote in his report that he saw the inmate bang his head on a radiator as he called out for help.

The officer noted that he urged Campau "several times to put his smock on so I could restrain him and have his injuries checked by medical."

Campau did not comply, according to the officer's account.

"During this time, Inmate Campau was staggering around his cell asking for help," he wrote.

Eventually, the inmate agreed to obey orders.

"At this point I told him to forget the smock and come to the cuff port to be restrained," the officer wrote. "He complied ... by standing up and covering his genitals and placing his hands through the cuff port. After I restrained him and the door opened he fell into the wheel chair and appeared to go unconscious."

Campau reportedly died within a half hour of losing consciousness.

-On July 6, 2011, David Wayne was found dead in his penitentiary cell, located in a housing area known as E Block.

When staffers arrived, the 68-year-old inmate was slumped on a toilet. He reportedly was "not moving, not responding and not breathing."

Officers found evidence that pointed to a drug overdose: a half-loaded syringe and a baggie containing "an unknown brown substance."

-Inmate Michael Halvorson, a 50-year-old convicted sex offender, died at Salem Hospital on Nov. 27, 2011, six days after he tried to kill himself at the Oregon State Correctional Institution.

Before releasing reports on Halvorson's death, prison officials deleted information they deemed confidential. The edited reports provide no details about the inmate's reported suicide attempt or resulting medical complications.

-Prison officials withheld reports on one inmate's death, citing pending litigation.

Richard Gifford, 22 and developmentally disabled, died in a segregation cell at the state penitentiary May 5, 2010.

An autopsy determined that he died of an "intravenous injection of undetermined drug or toxin."

Gifford's mother has filed a federal civil rights suit against the state, alleging that prison mental health workers failed to properly treat him and ignored his warnings that he was suicidal.

The suit, filed in December in U.S. District Court, also alleges that corrections staffers in the Disciplinary Segregation Unit frequently failed to make mandated checks on the inmate. ..Source.. by Alan Gustafson, Statesman Journal

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